FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) is an international LEGO-building competition that introduces participants ages 9 to 14 (9 to 16 outside the United States and Canada) to the fun and excitement of science and technology through real-world engineering challenges. TDW proudly sponsors the organization through coaching, volunteer mentoring, and judging competitions.
“Not long ago, I was talking with a friend of mine, who is the CEO for a company that hires many engineers,” says Dick Williamson, Chairman of the Board at TDW. “I asked him what his criteria for hiring extremely talented engineers was. My friend answered, ‘I can tell you that if the candidate has participated in the FIRST or FLL program, they are immediately on my short list, because I know that they have learned the values and the way of thinking that is required to be a highly successful engineer in the field.’”
Salt Lake City plays with LEGO®
Dick Williamson’s passion for getting young people interested in engineering is exactly what inspired TDW engineers to bring FLL to our Salt Lake City location.
Ed, and integrity engineer, suggested FLL to the Salt Lake City Community Relations Committee (CRC), explaining its unique opportunity to share the joys of creative engineering in a fun and safe environment. It turned out to be an easy sell: The CRC agreed that FLL meets the TDW goals of supporting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education among our youth.
And so Ed formed “Team Baconado,” a group of Salt Lake City employees’ children. Team Baconado teaches the kids to solve problems through creative play – and it provides the opportunity to bring young people into the workplace to show them what a possible career path at TDW might look like.
As the coach and mentor for Team Baconado, Ed believes strongly in the FLL cause. “As a scientist by training and licensed Professional Engineer, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing our economy if we cannot engage our youth – especially young women – to pursue STEM careers,” he says. “For me personally, FLL allows me to scratch my teaching itch by working with kids and show my own children what it is that I do as an engineer.”
The theme of the 2014 FLL competition was “World Class Learning Unleashed.” The goal? To make learning fun and engaging. Team Baconado designed a board game to teach difficult topics through active learning, silly songs, acting, and friendly competition. In addition, Team Baconado participated in the event’s “Robot Game” of building autonomous mechanical systems, programming a computer to control actuators and sensors, and devising mission strategies.
“Failure is an integral part of the learning experience, and participating on Team Baconado helps the kids learn perseverance that will help them in all aspects of their lives going forward,” says Ed. “I love the moment when a kid connects disparate pieces of information or ideas and synthesizes an entirely new direction – whether for the project or the robot. It’s the ‘ah-ha’ moment.”